Questioning assumptions, left and right - We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our fu...
23 hours ago
The White House announced an aggressive plan Friday to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a mounting problem that causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths every year in the United States.
"Duck Dynasty" star and conservative icon Phil Robertson told a gruesome, vivid story on Friday about the hypothetical rape and murder of a family to illustrate the perils of atheism, according to audio surfaced by Right Wing Watch.
The website reported that Robertson made the remarks during a speech at a Florida prayer breakfast that was later broadcast by the conservative radio program TruNews.
From the Right Wing Watch report on Robertson's speech:
“I’ll make a bet with you,” Robertson said. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?’” Robertson kept going: “Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun. We’re sick in the head, have a nice day.’”
“If it happened to them,” Robertson continued, “they probably would say, ‘something about this just ain’t right.”
Students at Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, New York, knew right away there was something not quite right about the Pledge of Allegiance. That’s because the pledge was being recited in Arabic.
“One nation under Allah,” the student body president announced over the intercom system on Wednesday.
The school said the pledge was recited in Arabic as a way to honor National Foreign Language Week “and in an effort to celebrate the many races, cultures and religions that make up this great country.” It said the pledge had been recited in other languages throughout the week. ...
“Thanks to the illegal invasion and the concept of ‘celebrate diversity,’ English is becoming a foreign language in America,” one critic wrote on the local newspaper’s website.
A vendor at a gun show this weekend in Sioux Falls, S.D. was spotted selling shooting targets with a cartoonish depiction of a black man and bearing the words "Official Runnin' N****r Target," television station KSFY reported on Sunday.
While a crew from KSFY was reporting on the "Collector's Classic Gun Show," one of the station's photographers noticed the targets showing the cartoonish silhouette. The KSFY photographer confronted the unidentified vendor who was selling the targets for 10 cents each and who was unfazed by the photographer's questions.
"Why are those on there?" KSFY's photographer asked.
"Why aren't they?" the vendor said. "They're just targets."
"Aren't they offensive in nature?" the photographer asked.
"To who? Are you a negro?" the vendor said. "You know there's some black people and then there's some negroes."
The unidentified vendor also added that he'd "sold 500 of them this weekend so what difference does it make?"
Top U.S. and Iranian diplomats returned to talks Tuesday, seeking to resolve differences blocking a deal that would curtail Iran's nuclear program and ease sanctions on the country. Among the issues they're now contending with is a Republican letter warning that any deal could collapse the day President Barack Obama leaves office.
The discussions between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif came after a senior U.S. official described Iranian diplomats twice confronting their American counterparts about last week's open letter to Iran's leaders written by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and signed by 46 other GOP senators.
The letter came up in talks Sunday between senior U.S. and Iranian negotiators, the official said, and the Iranians raised it again in negotiations Monday led by Kerry and Zarif.
There’s a cheesy country-western song that is getting quite popular. I admit, I’m not fond of the genre; while there’s the occasional spark of brilliance or great performer, most of it is smug white folks crying about how miserable their lives are while blaring out either fist-pumping patriotism or treacly self-pity. It’s still the music many people grew up with, though, so it’s fine if you like it. You don’t have to rationalize why you like it here, OK?
But some things need explaining. This new song, Pissed Off Rednecks Like Me” is getting a lot of undeserved attention because it is “controversial”. It isn’t — it’s dumb. It feeds a lot of bigotry, though, so bigots are enjoying it.
The photographer, Doug Mills, provided Sullivan with more detail.
"Bush was in the bright sunlight," he explained. "I did not even send this frame because it’s very wide and super busy and Bush is super-overexposed because he was in the sun and Obama and the others are in the shade."
The Americans who crossed this bridge were not physically imposing. But they gave courage to millions. They held no elected office. But they led a nation. They marched as Americans who had endured hundreds of years of brutal violence, and countless daily indignities – but they didn’t seek special treatment, just the equal treatment promised to them almost a century before. ...
As we commemorate their achievement, we are well-served to remember that at the time of the marches, many in power condemned rather than praised them. Back then, they were called Communists, half-breeds, outside agitators, sexual and moral degenerates, and worse – everything but the name their parents gave them. Their faith was questioned. Their lives were threatened. Their patriotism was challenged.
And yet, what could be more American than what happened in this place?
What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people – the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many – coming together to shape their country’s course?
What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this; what greater form of patriotism is there; than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide that it is in our power to remake this nation to more closely align with our highest ideals? ...
The American instinct that led these young men and women to pick up the torch and cross this bridge is the same instinct that moved patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It’s the same instinct that drew immigrants from across oceans and the Rio Grande; the same instinct that led women to reach for the ballot and workers to organize against an unjust status quo; the same instinct that led us to plant a flag at Iwo Jima and on the surface of the Moon.
It’s the idea held by generations of citizens who believed that America is a constant work in progress; who believed that loving this country requires more than singing its praises or avoiding uncomfortable truths. It requires the occasional disruption, the willingness to speak out for what’s right and shake up the status quo.
That’s what makes us unique, and cements our reputation as a beacon of opportunity. ...
Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American. Women marched through those doors. Latinos marched through those doors. Asian-Americans, gay Americans, and Americans with disabilities came through those doors. Their endeavors gave the entire South the chance to rise again, not by reasserting the past, but by transcending the past. ...
We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, or that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past fifty years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or L.A. of the Fifties. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress – our progress – would be to rob us of our own agency; our responsibility to do what we can to make America better.
Of course, a more common mistake is to suggest that racism is banished, that the work that drew men and women to Selma is complete, and that whatever racial tensions remain are a consequence of those seeking to play the “race card” for their own purposes. We don’t need the Ferguson report to know that’s not true. We just need to open our eyes, and ears, and hearts, to know that this nation’s racial history still casts its long shadow upon us. We know the march is not yet over, the race is not yet won, and that reaching that blessed destination where we are judged by the content of our character – requires admitting as much. ...
That’s what America is. Not stock photos or airbrushed history or feeble attempts to define some of us as more American as others. We respect the past, but we don’t pine for it. We don’t fear the future; we grab for it. America is not some fragile thing; we are large, in the words of Whitman, containing multitudes. We are boisterous and diverse and full of energy, perpetually young in spirit. That’s why someone like John Lewis at the ripe age of 25 could lead a mighty march.
And that’s what the young people here today and listening all across the country must take away from this day. You are America. Unconstrained by habits and convention. Unencumbered by what is, and ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, and new ground to cover, and bridges to be crossed. And it is you, the young and fearless at heart, the most diverse and educated generation in our history, who the nation is waiting to follow.
Because Selma shows us that America is not the project of any one person.
Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word “We.” We The People. We Shall Overcome. Yes We Can. It is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given, to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.
Forty-seven Republican senators signed an open letter to Iran's leaders warning that a potential nuclear deal won't outlast Barack Obama's presidency, hinting that Congress does not intend to honor it.
The letter, led by freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) and first reported by Bloomberg View, comes at a highly sensitive time as the Obama administration is reportedly closing in on an agreement to lift economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for halting its nuclear program for as many as 15 years.
"It has come to our attention while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government that you may not fully understand our constitutional system," the Republican senators wrote. "First, under our Constitution, while the president negotiates international agreements, Congress plays the significant role of ratifying them. In the case of a treaty, the Senate must ratify it by a two-thirds vote. ... Anything not approved by Congress is a mere executive agreement."
(The senators erred in their description of how treaties work. As Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith pointed out, the Senate does play a key role in voting on and consenting to a treaty, but it is the president who negotiates and formally "ratifies" it, as the Congressional Research Service has explained.) ...
The signatories to the letter include three potential Republican presidential candidates — Sens. Rand Paul (KY), Ted Cruz (TX) and Marco Rubio (FL) — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY).
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attacked the Republican letter as a "juvenile political attack" aimed at "undermining our commander in chief." Republicans, he said, "cannot accept the fact that this good man, Barack Obama, this man with the unusual name, was elected twice by overwhelming margins by the people of this country."
In Senate floor remarks, he said Democrats never contemplated sending a letter to Iraq's leaders highlighting their disagreements with President George W. Bush. ...
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a close Obama ally, excoriated Republicans on Monday, calling the letter a "political stunt" that could lead to another Middle East war.
"This is a cynical effort by Republican Senators to undermine sensitive international negotiations—it weakens America’s hand and highlights our political divisions to the rest of the world," he said in a statement. "Understand that if these negotiations fail, a military response to Iran developing their nuclear capability becomes more likely. These Republican Senators should think twice about whether their political stunt is worth the threat of another war in the Middle East."
I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy. The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.
This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.
Around the world, America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Some of these are made in international agreements approved by Congress. However, as the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without Congressional approval. And that will be the case should the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reach an understanding with Iran. There are numerous similar cases. The recent U.S.-Russia framework to remove chemical weapons from Syria is only one recent example. Arrangements such as these are often what provide the protections that U.S. troops around the world rely on every day. They allow for the basing of our forces in places like Afghanistan. They help us disrupt the proliferation by sea of weapons of mass destruction. They are essential tools to the conduct of our foreign policy, and they ensure the continuity that enables the United States to maintain our credibility and global leadership even as Presidents and Congresses come and go.
Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.
In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.
The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine. ...
The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.
The blast blew out parts of the west wall of the building and shattered all the windows. Floors and walls collapsed. The account in the Sioux City Journal declared, "Heavy steel doors and equipment throughout the structure were blown about like matchwood." The blast left a nightmare of twisted steel and tangled debris. Twenty-one people died and more than 90 people were injured. ...
The six-story building housed the main offices of Swift and Company along with other operations. Offices in the building received the full force of the blast. The room from which meat shipments were made was on the first floor. The third, fourth and fifth floors housed the sausage plant and smoke house. Offices, including those of the superintendent, were demolished. Hardest hit was the main floor and basement. The floor over the basement collapsed. Slaughtering houses located in the north end of the plant were not damaged as much.
Witnesses said that employees in the main office ran from the building with their clothes in tatters. Many of them were bleeding from wounds. Others suffered from ammonia burns. ...
The Fire Department was first to arrive. Fortunately, there was little fire, and fireman quickly joined the volunteers in the search for survivors. Nearly all of the available firemen and policemen were called to the scene. All ambulances were called to duty, but there were not enough of them. Many of the injured were brought to hospitals in private vehicles. Governor Beardsley authorized the mobilization of the National Guard to help in the disaster. The Salvation Army and the Red Cross set up canteen stations to serve coffee and sandwiches to the victims and rescuers.
Ammonia and gas fumes spread through the area, creating fear of another explosion. The police used loudspeakers to warn rescuers and bystanders not to smoke. Some rescuers wore gas masks to prevent being overcome by the fumes. Swift and Company mechanics attacked the wreckage with hacksaws in the effort to clear the way for rescuers. They were afraid that the use of torches could spark another blast. Automobile wreckers and a huge airplane wrecker from the Air National Guard were brought in to help clear the heavy steel girders.
|Michelle, Doc, and Soo ganging up on a dust bandit|
|Nice doggie (not as friendly as he looks)|
|Woo, hoo! Four new recruits from a single town!|
|We fight a beak thing.|
|A broad pass through the mountains. A city might do well here.|
|Looking north to the future site of Darwin (that pass through the mountains is centered in this view)|
|Very rough ground to the east.|
|Looking NW, another view of the pass. That steep, dead-end canyon - for water and crops - is just to the right.|
|Looking southeast - easy, but defensible, passage to Bark.|
|Another view SE towards Bark.|
|Wide open to the southwest, but abundant reserves of iron, too.|
|The initial settlement of Darwin - stone mine, stone processor, electric generator, and storage boxes - looking NW towards the pass.|
Take the Grimké sisters, for example. Born to a prominent South Carolina family, Angelina and Sarah Grimké became two of the 19th century’s most committed activists: for women’s rights, as in Sarah’s Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women (1838); for the abolition of slavery, as in Angelina’s Appeal to the Christian Women of the South (1836); and for other social causes and reforms. They were consistently condemned and vilified for those efforts, most especially for speaking in public and to “promiscuous” (i.e. mixed-gender) audiences. At one such event, at an 1838 anti-slavery convention in Philadelphia, Angelina spoke for more than an hour while stones and other objects were hurled against the windows and walls by a hostile mob—a mob that returned the next day and set fire to the convention hall.
Hostility toward abolitionists was, of course, interconnected with attacks on public women in that particular case, although the broader critiques of their public speaking efforts focused entirely on the Grimkés’ gender. But there were no such mitigating factors in the late 19th and early 20th century attacks on women’s suffrage activists. When thousands of suffrage activists marched to the White House to protest Woodrow Wilson’s March 1913 inauguration (scheduled for the next day), they were cursed, spit upon and even physically attacked by hostile crowds. Even when they weren’t being physically assaulted, suffrage activists were consistently belittled and demonized in media and cultural texts, such as the 1910 children’s book Ten Little Suffergets, which depicted the activists as silly little girls fortunately dissuaded from their cause by everything from cake and a “DEAD dolly” to drowning and a whipping.
Such longstanding historical attacks, physical as well as cultural, provide an important context for the late 20th century “backlash” against feminism identified by Susan Faludi and other scholars, as well as for our contemporary debates over birth control, wage equality and other issues. But along with the overt attacks, it’s important to consider another ongoing side of these American histories: the effects they had and continue to have on talented and innovative women in all walks of life. Illustrating those effects is the frustrating story of Sophia Hayden Bennett, the first woman to graduate from MIT with a degree in architecture and the architect chosen (only three years later, at the age of 23) to design the Women’s Building at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Despite this honor, Hayden Bennett’s design was criticized for “revealing the limitations” of its creator’s gender; the American Architect and Building News went further in its review, arguing that “as a woman’s work it ‘goes’ of course … it is simply weak and commonplace … The roof garden is a hen-coop for petticoated hens, old and young.”
Fed up with such responses, and likely extremely limited in her opportunities, Hayden Bennett never designed another building, and retired from architecture less than two years after the Exposition. When we see men follow Hillary Clinton around during her 2008 presidential campaign with signs ordering her to “iron their shirts,” witness the bullying and threats directed at female video game designers and scholars in the ongoing Gamergate controversy, it’s important to ask whether these longstanding histories have changed—and how many other talented American women might be forced out of their chosen professions and public activisms.
In case the situation with the latest Obamacare lawsuit, King v. Burwell, wasn’t surreal enough, along comes the anti-Obamacare lawyer Michael Carvin, and some of his, um, more colorful ideas about why the Affordable Care Act is bad law. Trying to contrast the ACA with the constitution, Carvin characterized the ACA as “a statute that was written three years ago, not by dead white men but by living white women and minorities.”
It’s startling to see an Obamacare opponent so bluntly characterize efforts to destroy the law as a way to preserve white male privilege in this way, much less taking it so far as to suggest the privileges of dead white men count for more than the needs of living women and people of color. But it shouldn’t be. The race- and-gender-based opposition to the ACA has been baked into the fight against it from the beginning, when the bill was very nearly derailed by opponents claiming that it would somehow override federal bans on funding abortion. ...
Ugly racial attitudes influenced the opposition to Obamacare in two major ways: Hostility to the black President that signed it into law and hostility to the black people who might get better healthcare through it. It’s exceedingly rare to find, outside of Carvin’s bizarre comment, any conservatives overtly mentioning race in their objections to Obamacare. But then again, they don’t need to. All they need to do is whip out the standard conservative talking points that have racially loaded implications built right into them: “States’ rights,” “welfare queens,” loaded warnings about the supposed wave of laziness about to crest over our nation. All these ideas are rooted in our nation’s history of racism—indeed, “states’ rights” was invented to justify slavery and then segregation—and the way that conservatives lean on these ideas now suggest that one of the unspoken but heavily insinuated arguments against Obamacare is that it’s a way for the federal government to steal health care from white people and give it to black people. Adds a new dimension to the fear of “death panels” when you think about it.
Social science, as Paul Waldman showed in the Washington Post last May, bears this out: Attitudes about race and about the ACA are tightly interwoven. Research has shown that negative attitudes about black people increase hostility to health care reform, that opinions about health care reform polarized by racial attitudes after Obama’s election, and that nativist attitudes predicted hostility to health care reform. Research has found that white people with high racial resentment, regardless of their opinion on Obama, view health care reform as a giveaway to lazy black people. You can see why people don’t say these things out loud in public, but the eyebrow-wriggling and hinting has been strong throughout this debate.
The gender-baiting, in contrast, has been way more explicit. Ever since the HHS announced that contraception would be covered as co-pay-free preventive service, conservative media has gleefully portrayed the ACA as a program to give hot young sluts an opportunity to screw on the public dime, an argument that managed to get this narrow provision all the way to the Supreme Court. Never mind that young women with private insurance are no more on the public dime than any other people who have private health insurance. The idea that sexy young things are having fun without you but making you pay for it has been just too provocative for conservative pundits to let facts get in the way.
Whatever its abstract intellectual roots, conservatism has since at least the sixties drawn its political strength by appealing to heartland identity politics. In 1985, Stanley Greenberg, then a political scientist, immersed himself in Macomb County, a blue-collar Detroit suburb where whites had abandoned the Democratic Party in droves. He found that the Reagan Democrats there understood politics almost entirely in racial terms, translating any Democratic appeal to economic justice as taking their money to subsidize the black underclass. And it didn’t end with the Reagan era. Piles of recent studies have found that voters often conflate “social” and “economic” issues.